A border-breaking project

Good neighbors deserve well-functioning infrastructure to benefit from each other and take care of the neighborliness. This is the idea behind the Barents on Time project, which aims to unite a user-friendly public transport system across the borders.

In normal times, there are hundreds of people who cross the borders between Norway, Russia and Finland in our region every day. They travel to and from work or to do the shopping. At the same time, this region is attractive for tourists – even more attractive if they have an opportunity to visit three countries during one trip. Today, the offer consists of a dozen different bus routes, all of them being commercial. The problem is that these companies operate independently of each other and do not correspond with other local companies in the respective countries. The Barents on Time project aims to do something about it.

Common platform

Here, everything is in place to create a robust platform and good cooperation across nations. Good neighborliness can be even better, while everyone can benefit from each other.

  • The plan is to develop a common publishing platform for cross-border public transport and investigate the possibilities for a common booking solution. At the same time, we want collaboration with the respective countries’ customs authorities for faster border crossing, so that passports and other personal details are already registered when booking tickets, – explains project manager Lars H. Engerengen and project coordinator Irina Popova from Barents on Time.

The study of an audience-friendly system with monitors displaying real time departure information at all central stops, and an online ordering solution providing also the same information, is also in the plan.

With travelers in focus

User surveys among travelers and relevant bus operators are supposed to show their needs, wishes and expectations.

  • We want these traffic routes to correspond with other local public transport routes, in addition to air traffic in all three countries, as well as create a system that makes it easy to move across the borders in our region, for the best possible experience for travelers. At the same time, we see great benefits for tourism, business and the people who live in all three regions. For a richer collaboration and care of our good neighborliness up here, – adds Kristina Hansen, County Councilor for Transport.

Good neighborliness

Collaboration like this provides great opportunities to make good neighborliness even better. The website and social media will also have the task of showcasing all the great things each region has, such as outdoor life, experiences and trade.

  • In close collaboration with the counties of Murmansk and Lapland, Troms and Finnmark county municipalities want to forge even closer ties. In addition to a more seamless infrastructure, the platform will aim to inform about the destinations, places where you can eat and stay, and what you can experience. Services that tour operators and tourists can also benefit from. This is about independent companies. Our task will be to facilitate them, make it easier for the drivers and provide better offers for the travelers, – the County Council continues.

Funded by Kolarctic

The project is funded by Kolarctic CBC 2014-2020 Interreg program, which is a funding program to strengthen and support cross-border cooperation in the North Calotte and Northwest Russia. Marjaana Lahdenranta is central here and has the overall responsibility for communicating the applications further to Kolarctic. She works in Finland and has not been involved in choosing which projects receive support. However, she has a good overview of which criteria apply and what was crucial for Barents on Time to get through the eye of the needle;

  • Those who select which projects receive support base their assessment on approved Kolarctic’s program strategy, on the quality of the project plan and the consortium (partners). The program focuses in particular on seamless mobility of people, goods and knowledge across borders, – explains Marjaana Lahdenranta, CBC expert at Kolarctic CBC.

She further explains that for such a collaboration to work, there must be good connections between east and west, logistics corridors, investments and development activities. It also presupposes accessibility to the regions, development of sustainable and climate-safe transport and communication networks and systems.

Long-term effects

The Committee concluded that Barents on Time met these requirements. The rationale for the grant was as follows:

“The project is relevant being in line with the regional tourism strategy. The project has good partners who together will create long-term positive effects for the region, the inhabitants and the development of infrastructure in the sphere of transport.”

  • I myself have worked for many years in Interreg, ENPI and ENI and seen that the east-west traffic connections have been a challenge. Transport and goods are one thing, but no less important is passenger transport, which this project deals with. Tourism reached new heights before the pandemic, which has increased the need for well-functioning cross-border bus transport in our region, – Lahdenranta concludes.